Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), has called on the Federal and state government in the country to expedite action in setting up a Tourism Advisory Council for Nigeria.
The Federation made the call in a communiqué issued after the successful hosting of the Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019, held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja.
The communiqués signed by FTAN President, Alhaji Saleh Kareem Rabo, affirmed that the need to setup the council became necessary due to the 2013 Supreme Court Judgement, between NTDC and Lagos State Government, which stupulates that regulation of Tourism Services is the statutory purview of State Governments, thereby limiting the supervisory roles hitherto performed by the NTDC.
The communiqué stated that the Tourism Advisory Council members should cooperatively work towards the improvement of infrastructure at tourist destinations and coordinate the implementation of a common standard in the quality tourist/visitor facilities and services provided across Nigeria.
It said: “To this end, we recommend that membership of the proposed Tourism Advisory Council should comprise of representatives of each of the 36 State Governments in Nigeria, a representative of the FCT, a representative of the NTDC & that of NIHOTOUR, and representatives of the organized private sector, i.e. FTAN member associations.
“It is incumbent on the Federal and State Governments, to collaborate with the private sector tourism operators, to strategically increase the visibility of Nigeria’s domestic tourist destinations and products therein. The partnership is necessary because in tourism management, ‘Destinations’ are geographic area in Nigeria’s Federating States, while ‘Tourist Products’ are value added services sold to visitors and tourists by private sector tourism operators. Therefore, the benefits of this partnership to Government are the receivable taxes and levies; while the benefit to the private sector are the profits from sales of tourist services at the destination.
“Evidently, Nigeria cannot have a thriving Tourism industry, with economic multiplier-effects in tourist host communities, if the culture of leisure tourism is not entrenched in Nigeria. More so, Nigeria is the largest travel source market in Africa, powered by our huge population and growing middle class. A successful domestic tourism culture would eventually attract the highly profitable foreign inbound tourists.
“Accordingly, the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and National Orientation, together with the State Tourism Ministries, should extend their partnership with the organized private sector, through FTAN, to embark on massive domestic tourism public awareness and promotional campaigns, in order to drive domestic tourist traffic to the visitors-ready tourist destinations and related products in Nigeria. The campaign should target the bourgeoning middle and upper class Nigerians citizens and the expatriate community who have the disposable income to embark on leisure tourism.
“The organized tourism private sector in Nigeria, under the aegis of FTAN, demands that the prevailing Federal and State Governments tax systems should be rejigged, and subsequently more coordinated, to eliminate or reduce – where it is inescapable – the crippling multiple tax regimes and other statutory charges levied on hotels, resorts and travel trade companies in Nigeria.
“Globally, tourism business investments require a long-term gestation period to return profits. More so, most thriving ‘tourism countries’ in the world today built their industry with tourism-business-friendly government policies that spectacularly incentivize tourism investments, including easy access to land for tourism, establishment of development funds, tax holidays, zero import duties for tourism businesses, and et cetera.
“In Nigeria today, tourism investors and service providers, who are mostly SMEs, are repeatedly taxed and levied at multiple levels, including at the Federal, State and Local government levels. This has over the years, led to sudden closure and avoidable bankruptcy of promising tourist business operations in Nigeria – who took bank loans at double digits and could not pay back due to stifling tax regimes and unpredictable government levies.
“Governments in Nigeria must learn to nurture the growth of tourism businesses before hurrying to tax us. That is the best practice at every successful tourism economy in the world. Nigerian government, through the civil and public service, should encourage growth, and not frustrate growth of the tourism industry! Otherwise, the tourism industry in Nigeria, which is one of the largest direct and indirect employer of labour, would continue to be petered out of existence, resulting in thousands of job losses and loss of likely government revenues.
“FTAN implores the Federal and State Governments’ tourism parastatals, in the interest of a nationally integrated tourism development, to assiduously and relentlessly involve private sector tourism business operators, across the 36 Federating States, in their tourism policy formulation and program execution.
“This onerous call by FTAN is expedient and timeous, because in its core, Tourism is business-driven. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the private sector tourism, who have been the engine room of Tourism deliverables, and the largest financial investors in the industry, are always sidelined in government policy formulation.
“Consequently, the Nigerian tourism public and private sectors appear to always be at daggers-drawn, especially when the latter, through FTAN, understandably, resists government’s business-disorienting tourism policies and programs. Readers may have heard of the African proverb that says, ‘you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence!’
“Further to, we appeal to Government functionaries, as a matter of urgency, to commit more resources to construction and repairs of inter and intra State roads in Nigeria, especially the roads that lead to tourist sites in the States. Access to tourism sites is necessary to stimulate tourist destination development and creation of activities, because most of Nigeria’s tourist sites are located in the hinterlands.
“Besides, cultural tourism, which is Nigeria’s global tourism competitive advantage, most times take place in rural host communities, and such communities need to have some of the very basic socio-economic infrastructure to attract overnight staying tourists. By the way, overnight staying tourists are the highest contributors of destinations’ tourism receipts.
“The benefits of government investments in rural roads construction and repairs are enormous, immediate and encompassing to citizens and general businesses. Good, motorable, roads easily result in more tourist traffic and receipts at destinations. Moreover, government’s investment in infrastructure is one of the most effective ways to transform societies and catalyze development. Empirically, massive road investments commonly lead to increased tax collectibles, employment of labour, grassroots poverty eradication, regional business expansion, as well as, other emerging benefits to residents.
“FTAN equally appeals to the Federal government, the Nigerian Police, the Armed Forces, and all other relevant security agencies in Nigeria, to devise new winning strategies and acquire more skills to immediately put a stop to rampant kidnappings and armed robbery on Nigerian roads, particularly on roads leading to leading tourist destinations. Road travel is one of the cheapest means for tourists to access Nigerian tourist destinations, hence when travelers are not safe on our roads, tourism cannot thrive in Nigeria.
“The world over, insecurity is anathema to any successful destination promotion and sustainable tourism development. The current alarming state of insecurity in Nigeria is unimaginably stunting the growth and sustainability of the tourism industry. By default, tourists would not visit any country, region, or destination, where their lives would apparently be in danger.
“Finally, FTAN strongly frowns at the continuing non-committal attitude of the Minister of Information and Culture and the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) towards NTIFE and other national FTAN events. We have observed, and long came to the conclusion, that the supervising Ministries and agencies for Tourism administration in Nigeria, both at the Federal and State levels, are only interested in attending expensive foreign tourism events, at the detriment of the numerous progressive domestic tourism events in Nigeria.”